Monday, April 25, 2011

A Line Burned In Your Brain

(Sorry I've been absent from blogosphere. Lots of financial stuff going on. And then the tornadoes struck. My immediate family is OK, but I know so many people with damage to their homes/businesses. I even captured footage of a funnel cloud retreating back up into the sky over my house. Mother Nature can be merciless).

Words are powerful things. And when you put them together, the meaning and profoundness are a thousand-fold. Songs, poems, novels, movies, TV shows - I can think of a handful of lines from each that for some reason or another have stuck with me all of my life for many reasons. Sometimes, a deep and enlightning message is captured in just one sentence. Other times, the line is just so incredibly funny, it's burned into my brain.

Here is just a small example of my favorite lines from various books:

"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. . . . With us it ain't like that. We got a future." John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
* This line is unforgettable. George and Lenny are living in the darkness of The Great Depression, going from ranch to ranch to make a living. It just shows the hope and friendship the the odd couple hold for each other.

"Either get busy living or get busy dying." Stephen King's Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redeption.
* Whoever thinks King's works have no literary merit are mistaken. This is a powerful line, and one that is often quoted in the political and self-help arenas. Time is short. Time waits for no one.  Every single one of us will one day die. What we do until then is really up to us.

"Sanity is not statistical." George Orwell's 1984.
* Four power words. In the age of "groupthink" this statement has never rang more true. Just because the entire mass of people believe something to be true doesn't make it so.

"It's funny.  All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to." J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.
* Talk about the human condition! Geez. Salinger's character Holden Caufield knows what makes people tick. People tend to overlook logic when dealing with powerful emotions. Even when something doesn't make sense at all, when there's no scientific or factual data to back you up - if you strike an emotional chord, people will follow.

Politicians and laywers have been doing it for eons.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Free At Last! Free At Last!

Thank God Almighty...ok so I'm really not free.

But I did finally complete my initial draft for my WIP, The Dragonfly Warrior. This is a monumental thing for me, as I have had it rough for the past several months.

I started outlining and brainstorming for this Young Adult/Fantasy/Steampunk novel back in late October. I was in training for a new job, and the evenings I had alone in my Houston, TX hotel room were spent writing all of these ideas, graphs, and flow charts for an idea for a story I've had in my head for sometime.

There was my mom's diagnosis of breast cancer in August, along with my own tumor scare soon thereafter.

And lately, I've been dealing with a horrible financial crisis that has really left me emotionally spent and weary of big banks, especially Bank of America (bastards).  I am living proof that you can follow the rules and be responsible, yet get suckered into getting screwed.

But that's for another post, or maybe a counseling session with a licensed therapist.

It's been YEARS since I have completed an entire novel-length manuscript. And even if this thing never sees the light of day, it is still a victory for me. A victory for my soul. And hopefully it'll be enough to carry me through the tough days that lie ahead.

And the revisions that await.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Does Anybody Really Write Anymore?

By hand, anyway.

In the world of smart phones, laptops, keyboards, texting, and tablets, it feels like we're writing less and less by hand these days. It's no wonder most of us experience handwriting degeneration after elementary school. My 10 year old still gets graded on handwriting, although it seems many schools have done away with teaching cursive.

Doctors aren't the only ones with horrible handwriting - which I attribute to them being short on time. Time is money, and doctors aren't paid to write 'scripts. They're paid to see people. With technology changing how we communicate, is handwriting even relevant?

When was the last time you either received or wrote a handwritten letter? Billions of emails are sent every day, and even more billions of texts are exchanged also. So what's the point of handwriting?

For those who have followed me over from my longtime other blog (The Phoenix), you all know how I love science and studies. Well, this study shows that handwriting - actually writing something by hand - has cognitive benefits you can't get while clacking away on any keyboard.

Typing and handwriting do have to areas in common: visual and motor. Although I will argue handwriting takes far more fine motor skills. But handwriting also involves extra cognitive work. Your brain has to remember how to make all the certain shapes and such to make each letter.

Also, handwriting teaches you how to focus, since you're just focusing on putting the tip of the writing instrument to paper to create the letters. Using a computer is faster, but you're going from keyboard to monitor/screen constantly. The brain isn't as "fired up" during the use of a keyboard compared to writing by hand. It takes more mental effort to use a pen.

Give it a try. Go pick up a pen and some paper and write a thoughful letter to someone you care about. It takes WAY longer, and heck, you might even feel a little tired both physically and mentally. Write a love note. Apologize to someone you've wronged in the past. Whatever. Just take your time, let your hand form each letter and word carefully. Put some effort into it.

Your brain, and your recipient, will thank you for it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Teens Love Paranormal Stuff

Harry Potter, Twilight, I Am Number Four...werewolves, vampires, angels, demi-gods, and even teens that have bird DNA in them that allow them to fly.

Why do teens (and adults) love these fantastic paranormal stories? Go into a bookstore, and it looks like Strange City all of a sudden. What's going on? I worked with adolescents for several years, and I think I have some good guesses as to why teens are drawn to the mystical and impossible world of paranormal fiction.

1) I've Got The Power! Because they straddle between two worlds, teens often feel powerless, and I think paranormal stories with super-human characters make readers feel more in control. Give them a sense of empowerment. To escape powerlessness, read about teen characters that are powerful.

2) Outcast Syndrome. Often these books center around an outcast. A main character that is special, but is often feeling alone because of their abilities. They have to keep their distance, out of fear of others finding out about their secret. These paranormal books feature outcasts that eventually shed their loneliness and use their powers for good. Outcasts can be heroes. They're not normal, they're PARAnormal. Get it?

3) Friends In Low Places. The opposite of Outcast Syndrome is how the outcast finds other outcasts. Then they can be outcasts together. Like a little club. (Think The Lost Boys). Birds of a feather and all that. The main character is able to over come their loneliness by seeking others with the same paranormalities!

4) I Don't Need Adults. Teens struggle for independence from their parents, from adults. They are tired of being treated like children. These books feature characters that deal with and solve their own problems without adults coming to the rescue. Independence indeed!

5) Escape. The real world can really suck, especially for an adolescent. Too old for kid stuff, too young for adult stuff. Family and school pressures, drama, and trying to figure out your identity are all stressful things. Teens can read about an imaginary world with fantastic characters that have abilities we all wish we could have. These books offer an escape - away from the crappy real world.

6) Standing on The Precipice.  Adolescence is sort of like looking over the edge of a cliff. You can't see what's down there, and everybody is telling you to jump. It's fear of the unknown. Paranormal and fantasy books allow a teen to explore the unknown, but from a safe distance.

Young Adult Literature is experience a nice ride of popularity right now, and there's so much out there. Adults are reading it too, probably making up half of those that read YA paranormal stuff.